Jessica Rivera, soprano
Russell Thomas, tenor
Eric Owens, bass-baritone
London Symphony Orchestra
John Adams, conductor
Schola Cantorum de Venezuela
Alberto Grau, founding conductor
Artistic Directors: María Guinand and Ana María Raga
Assistant Directors: Luimar Arismendi, Pablo Morales, and Víctor González
Libretto by John Adams and Peter Sellars, adapted from the Indian folktale and poetry in translations by A.K. Ramanujan
“The score is opulent, dreamlike, fiercely lyrical, at times shadowy and strange—unlike anything that the composer has written …”
The New Yorker
The opera "A Flowering Tree" was commissioned for the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth and was premiered at the New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna in November 2006.
The composer leads the London Symphony Orchestra and Venezuela’s Schola Cantorum Caracas, directed by Maria Guinand, on this recording—which features tenor Russell Thomas, soprano Jessica Rivera, and bass-baritone Eric Owens.
Adams and his longtime collaborator, co-librettist/director Peter Sellars, adapted an Indian folktale to create A Flowering Tree.
The opera shares with Mozart’s The Magic Flute the themes of youth, magic, transformation, and the dawning of moral awareness.
The work was commissioned by New Crowned Hope, San Francisco Symphony, Barbican Centre, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and the Berliner Philharmoniker.
A Flowering Tree tells the story of an impoverished young Indian girl, Kumudha, who has the magical ability to transform herself into a tree and sells her blossoms at the palace to help her ailing mother.
The Prince falls in love with her, and they marry but are torn apart by his jealous sister. After Kumudha is cast out into a netherworld as half woman, half tree, and the Prince becomes a wandering beggar, they meet again years later at the prince’s sister’s palace. No longer physically recognizable, Kumudha reunites with her prince through her beautiful singing voice.
Critics have praised A Flowering Tree since its debut.
The New York Times said, “Mr. Adams really goes for it. His score is alive with innocence and magic, which buzz in the violins, chime softly from the bells and blow in little windy phrases on recorders at the moment of enchantment.”
And the Chicago Tribune said, “The score is alive with pulsing strings, glinting metallic percussion and his trademark jumpy rhythmic patter … a compelling achievement.”